Some Illinois residents make the mistake of believing that only the very wealthy need estate planning. However, if you plan to leave any assets behind to your loved ones, estate planning may make the inheritance process go more smoothly for them.
Last will and testament
Composing the last will and testament provides the probate courts with an outline detailing how to distribute your assets. Steps to preparing a will should include the following:
- A list of your assets
- Guidelines on your existing debts and taxes
- A list of beneficiaries
- An appointed executor
- Arrangements for pets
- Guardians for minor children
The state of Illinois also requires you to have two witnesses for your will. You should choose witnesses who are at least 18 years old.
Probate court refers to the judicial system that oversees the distribution of estates. If you do not do any estate planning, probate court determines the method of distribution for your assets. Additionally, a lack of planning can result in the probate process lasting for up to a year. Proper planning reduces or eliminates the time your estate spends in probate court.
If you decide to use trusts as part of your estate plan, your beneficiaries might be able to bypass the probate court entirely. Not all trusts allow your assets to skip probate, but well-designed revocable trusts often provide this advantage.
End-of-life and incapacitated treatment
Estate planning does not only provide an outline for events after your death. You may also plan for end-of-life medical treatment and the type of care you wish to receive if you become incapacitated due to an illness or accident.
Protecting your assets and loved ones
The overall purpose of estate planning involves respecting your final wishes for your estate. Doing so allows you to protect your loved ones and the financial assets you worked hard to build.